Karachi conundrum
Mohammad Jamil


All strata of society are worried about the situation in Karachi. The plain truth is that two political entities are pitted against each other in a bloody battle for the conquest of Karachi - the MQM for keeping the port city as its exclusive preserve, and the ANP for making inroads in it. Of course, the PPP also wants to have control over the Sindhi Goths, Lyari and other PPP strongholds.

If one believes accusations of some members of these political parties, it becomes obvious that these parties have been patronizing the drug, land and bhatta mafias. For their politics, they have thrown the city into turmoil to bleed it. This is the simple plain truth. Karachi, the commercial and industrial hub of Pakistan, was symbol of peaceful coexistence where people from all provinces ie Pushtuns, Bloch, Punjabi lived in complete harmony with Sindhis, Mohajirs, Memons, Bohris, Agha Khanis and Parsis up to late 1970s.

Anybody with an iota of common sense would understand that peace in Karachi is imperative, as it is the hub of business activity and contributes more than 40 per cent revenue to the treasury. It also provides employment to hundreds and thousands of people. If the law and order situation continues to deteriorate, no investment would be forthcoming whether foreign or domestic. Rather existing industry, which is already suffering from electricity shortages, could come to the grinding halt. Unfortunately, the situation in Karachi is getting out of administrative control, as mass killing, looting, extortion and cold-blooded murder of innocent civilians after short hiatuses continues. The criminal groups have their areas of influence and declared them no-go areas for each other. There is a perception the above parties have lost their control of the mafias and gangs who are operating according to their whim and fancy.

In Colombia, Mumbai and Mexico, similar mafias exist. These mafias were first patronized by the politicians, and depended on the support of the ruling elite. But now politicians in Mexico depend on the mafias for their success in the elections. Though Karachi has not reached that stage but there is commonality to the extent that the thugs and gangsters are no more under the influence of the politicians. One does not understand that why the MQM, ANP and the PPP do not realize that if there is no peace in Karachi they all stand to lose ultimately. And they will always be blackmailed by the drug and land mafia members. Hence, there is a need for all the stake holders to play cool, control violence, de-weaponize the city, dissociate from the mafias and bring the culprits to justice, before it reaches the stage of Mexico and Mumbai, which have become unmanageable.

People of Pakistan especially Karachi are fed up with the gimmicks of politicians, as they have been watching the drama for more than a decade. Even after February 2008 elections, the MQM has been in and out of the cabinet. In fact, the MQM has realized that it is losing ground in Karachi, as the ANP and the PPP have been able to mobilize Pushtuns and Sindhis and are determined to safeguard their interests in their majority areas in Karachi. Secondly, during Musharraf, the MQM got the demarcation of constitutions done in a manner that Pushtuns, Sindhis and Punjabis’ majority areas were partially annexed with constituencies of the MQM majority areas. Thirdly, these parties have lost control of their gangsters and thugs and they are not willing to share booty with their leaderships. Anyhow, the charges leveled by Dr. Zulfikar Mirza, former Sindh PPP minister, against the MQM and federal interior minister Rehman Malik are too serious to be dismissed just like that. Those very disconcertingly relate to the country’s security, stability, in fact its very existence. He has spoken of a US conspiracy to break up Pakistan, of which he says MQM supremo Altaf Hussain is very much part. He further claimed Altaf Hussain having written to former British prime minister Tony Blair for the disbandment of the ISI. And he accused Rehman Malik of being a compulsive liar, hand-in-glove with terrorists in Karachi. He also declared that in the event some harm comes to Pakistan, Rehman Malik would be no less responsible for that. Zulfiqar Mirza has made specific charges and those have to be answered specifically by both. His accusations have touched off very troubling alarms in the people’s minds which cannot be settled down by counter-allegations against him by the MQM nor by meaningless comments by Malik. The MQM has to clearly state if their supremo had spoken or not of the alleged US conspiracy to dismember Pakistan to Mirza and also if he had told him that his party was aboard this diabolical plot. And the party has categorically to state if Altaf had sent a letter to Blair for the ISI’s dismantling, as asserts Mirza.

Rehman Malik is under obligation to state his position unambiguously on each and every accusation that Mirza has slapped him with. What Altaf has said is not something that concerns just the party or its estranged political ally or Malik. Surely, it is not politics he has spoken of. These are sensitive matters so crucially concerning the country’s stability and security that he has talked of. The issue is too grave and the PPP leadership has necessarily to take the matter in the same light, which regrettably it has not, as is so evident from the patently evasive comments of the party’s senior official and political functionaries. Indeed, given the gravity of the affair, the ruling PPP leadership should have immediately responded to his charges by instituting on its own a high-level investigation to establish the truth. It deplorably has not. In fact, it appears inclined to sleeping over the issue and let it fade out, giving the perturbing sense that it is its political expediency not the country’s security that comes to it uppermost. Some pundits have proposed the inclusion of Mirza in the suo moto case presently being heard by the Supreme Court on the worrisome law and order situation in the port city of Karachi. On Friday, MQM honcho Altaf Hussain addressed a video conference and as usual he resorted to gimmickry and his presentation and demeanor were unbecoming of a political leader and more of a buffoon.

Though he had earlier indicated that in his address he will divulge some secrets and expose intrigues to break Pakistan, the so-called proofs he presented were excerpts from the old books, and there was nothing new in it. He said he was not addressing the people of Pakistan only but also the world. And he made a fool of himself and stood exposed fully before them. Altaf Hussain chose not to give answer to any of the questions raised by Mirza Zulfiqar Mirza about his involvement in intrigue and conspiracy to destabilize, rather undo Pakistan. Irrespective of Mirza’s background and his past, one should not dismiss or take lightly what he had said after having taken oath on Qur’an. If fact, image of the MQM has been tarnished beyond repair, and Altaf Hussain does not have answer to Mirza’s accusations, he therefore came out with counter-accusations.

Today, the nation is confronted with gigantic challenges, both external as well as internal. Externally, a heady super power is sending ominous signals, and hardly a day goes by when Pakistan is not humiliated, in the US congressional chambers; is not pilloried on the US administration floors and is not demonized in America’s print and electronic media. Internally the nation is hopelessly entangled in a vicious terrorism involving a multiplicity of terrorist forces including foreign proxies, homegrown militants, sectarian fanatics, ethnic firebrands and criminal thugs. To extricate the nation out of this quagmire, it needs tall leaders with a good set of brains with big ideas and creative thoughts. It is unfortunate that Pakistan does not have that category of leaders. However, the ruling and opposition parties and their leaders, if they claim as patriots, they should work in unison to make Pakistan a self-reliant country to rid the dependency syndrome that compels Pakistan to do America’s bidding.